7 Songs From My L.A. Record Haul


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From 1981, “Pretenders II” — which I gladly added to my haul — is the final Pretenders album featuring the band’s original lineup; the guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and the bassist Pete Farndon would both die of drug-related causes within the next two years. Given those tragedies on the horizon, “Pretenders II” is a lasting document of the original group’s particular chemistry and spirit, which comes through on this wry single that finds the whole band moving together with the lurching rhythm of an old train.

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Here’s a blind buy that turned out to be well worth the sticker price: a collection of highlights from the Soul Stirrers, the gospel group that a young Sam Cooke fronted in the early 1950s before he embarked on his pop career in 1956. This LP includes some standards like “Peace in the Valley,” but it also features several originals written by Cooke, including this striking, deeply moving track. That voice, with all its pearly pathos and hard-won hope, is fully formed and immediately recognizable, even when Cooke sings of spiritual rather than secular love: “I know there’s consolation,” he sings, “as long as you’re there.”

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OK, this one is a bit of a cheat. I was thrilled to find a pristine copy of the original soundtrack to the 1982 Australian new wave musical “Starstruck” — an absolutely bonkers cult movie I adore and cannot recommend highly enough — and equally dismayed to find out later that none of its songs are available on streaming services in the U.S., so I cannot share them with you here. (You can find some of them if you dig around on YouTube, though.) Much of the music in “Starstruck” was written by Tim Finn, the New Zealand singer-songwriter who was then in Split Enz and would later join Crowded House with his brother Neil. Here, instead of a “Starstruck” tune, is one of Finn’s greatest songs with Split Enz — released, coincidentally, the same year as the film.

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I had to include one more song from “Pretenders II” — if only so you could hear Chrissie Hynde yell like she means it, “You guys are the pits of the world!”

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Finally, a confession: When I returned to New York and began filing my new records away in their alphabetically ordered homes, I realized I already owned a copy of Bryan Ferry’s “Another Place, Another Time.” Oops! An album so nice I bought it twice? Well, if any of my friends would like a free copy of this very enjoyable and inimitably dapper record, you know where to find me.

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